By John Hanson, Senior Vice President, USO
Every year, the USO’s direct mail campaign includes an appeal that carries the message, “There are no stockings in Iraq and Afghanistan.” Well, of course, there probably ARE stockings there. I can report to you that there are inflatable Santa-in-a-Sleigh yard decorations there. Today’s troops do what American troops at war have always done. They do their best to make their situations as home like as possible.
But, they aren’t home.
These brave men and women are anywhere BUT home, working over every holiday to keep us safe and to secure a nation half way around the world. And, Americans send them things to let them know we honor that sacrifice. They’ll get cakes and candy and the kinds of things we put in stockings, even if the troops don’t have a stocking handy.
Several years ago, I was on a USO holiday tour hosted by the Sergeant Major of the Army. The tour lasted ten days or so, and we were going to arrive home on Christmas Eve. The tour was exhausting. We stopped at Balad, Iraq, and when we walked backstage during the sound check, we noticed that there were small stockings on the wall. Nurses at the military hospital there bought the stockings, wrote the performers’ names in glue and glitter and put a single candy cane in each one. I will never forget the looks on the faces of each person, nor will I forget the glee and wonder each expressed at the thought of someone taking the time to say, “Merry Christmas” in that way. Stockings have power.
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Nov 16, 2016
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In light of the deep impact the 1983 Beirut bombing had on the Jacksonville community over the years, the USO center, with help from Lowe’s Home Improvement, created a special room in its center to honor the victims, survivors and family members affected by the bombing. The space – known as the “Beirut Room” by center staff and volunteers – features a granite wall monument, stained glass angels and several other photos and mementos memorializing those killed in the bombing.
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